A Tasmanian Liberal Party push to ban same-sex couples from entering into surrogacy arrangements in the state has been abandoned this week.
Following calls by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) for same-sex couples to be excluded, the Liberals introduced an amendment to a bill currently before Tasmanian Parliament which would allow for altruistic surrogacy for married and de facto couples in Tasmania, both gay and straight.
The Liberal amendment would have effectively criminalised same-sex couples trying to creating a family via a surrogate.
Tasmanian Attorney-General David Bartlett said the Liberals had since backed down on their opposition to same-sex couples being included in the legislation.
“This morning [April 13], the Liberals’ position effectively excluded everyone except heterosexual couples from accessing formal surrogacy,” Bartlett said yesterday.
“By this evening, the Opposition had accepted that same-sex couples should also have that opportunity — at least in certain circumstances.
“I want to thank the Opposition for listening and responding constructively to the arguments put forward.”
Bartlett said the Giddings minority Labor Government would not accept any amendment that would “continue discrimination, or reduce the fairness and equality of these reforms”.
Earlier in the week, ACL Tasmanian director Mark Brown claimed legislation should prevent gay couples from entering into surrogacy arrangements due to the “right of the child”.
“Where the state makes policy for children, it must ensure the right of a child to at least begin life with a mother and a father is upheld,” he said.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said he believed outrage from the gay and lesbian community had prompted the Liberals’ shift but stressed that any conditions imposed on same-sex couples accessing surrogacy should be the same as opposite-sex couples.
“We are pleased the Liberals have responded to the heartfelt pleas of same-sex partners with children, and have now decided to treat all Tasmanians equally,” he said.
“The Liberals’ former proposal would have made surrogacy a crime only if same-sex couples were involved, which would have put outdated prejudice ahead of the best interests of the children being raised by such couples.”
The surrogacy bill is moving through the final stages in the Tasmanian lower house and is expected to pass.
Surrogacy arrangements are not currently allowed in Tasmania.